The Other Side of the Game (another sneak peek)

Arriving way too early to my hotel suite, I was restless. Usually, my mind is wholly focused on the opposition the day before a game. I tried to review the video from the last time we played the Washington Pirates on my laptop, but I gave up when my mind drifted to Jade. I wondered how far she lived away from the hotel. When she told me she would be at the game tomorrow, I found myself excited. It had been a long time since someone I cared about attended my game. My parents and my older sister, Cicely, still lived in New Orleans and would come up for a game maybe once or twice a year.  I checked my diamond Piaget watch, and it was just a little after five, and our game wasn’t until tomorrow night. Fuck. I would go insane with these incessant thoughts about this woman who did her best to keep boundaries between us despite the tangible chemistry every fucking time we were near each other. I’d kept my word and had only been respectful whenever we met at Brad’s office or spoke on the phone. It’d only been a month since we met, and I’ve talked to her almost every day and seen her three times.  I flopped down on my bed, staring at the ceiling. Maybe another woman would distract me. I had a couple of women in DC who’d already reached out. I picked up my cell, debating whether to text one of them when it rang.

I almost dropped my phone like a fucking loser when I recognized Jade’s name and number. Not wanting it to seem that I longed to speak to her, I waited until it stopped ringing and called her back. “Couldn’t get to my phone in time.”

Jade replied, “Oh…okay. Listen, I know you focused on the game tomorrow, but I had to call and give you the news.”

“I’m listening.”

“Brace yourself. You just got your first cover.”

I smiled, more at the zeal in her voice than what she’d just shared. “You mean “we,” right? I told you we’re a team…you, Brad, this stylist you want me to meet next week, and me.”

“Yes, we’re a team. And our team just booked the cover of Men’s Health,” she squealed.

Men’s Health was one of the premier magazines for athletes, and that…that floored me, and I sat on the foot of the king-sized bed in disbelief. “Wow…wow…how did you manage that?”

“I sent a PR package to the editor, detailing your workout and diet regime, sent them a few of your workout pics I took off your IG, told them why you wear that number on your jersey, and reminded them of your career stats despite the Rattler’s record and I just received a call. I’m so happy right now, I could scream.”   

My dick stirred at the sound of her slightly raspy voice. I needed to see her. “Then we have to celebrate tonight. I’m already in the city.”

She sounded hesitant. “Um…don’t you need to rest up or something before a game?”

“I still need to eat. Join me for dinner. I bet I’m not far from you, and I can scoop you up.”

“We said we would keep it professional.”

“Well, meet me somewhere. I told you I wouldn’t try anything unless you ask.”

Jade groaned. “Don’t remind me. I really wished we met differently.”

“I don’t. I’m glad I had a chance to see a glimpse of how you react to my touch.” I lowered my voice purposely.

“And those words, your voice going all deep on me, is the reason we can’t have dinner.”

Refusing to be deterred, I insisted. “Bring a friend then if you’re worried about being alone with me. I just want to see you and celebrate together. This is huge news. I’ve been in the game almost nine years and never had a cover until a determined woman named Max made it happen. Choose a place and time, bring a friend, and I’m there. I can’t be out late anyway.” I paused, imagining the wrinkles in her forehead and dimples creasing her cheeks. “I can tell you want to celebrate as much as I do. Let’s grab a drink or two, and if you’re hungry, we’ll eat. It’s Friday night in the nation’s capital. Live a little.”

“Well, I do have a friend visiting. She lives in Diamond Lake and is in the city for the game. She rarely visits me here, and she definitely needs to get out.”

“Then it’s settled. I would love to celebrate with two lovely ladies. This is your town, where should we meet up? Do you want me to send you a car?”

“Not necessary. I know where the team is staying, and you’re not far from me. You like seafood?”

Happiness I’d never known spread through my being. “Am I from New Orleans?”

Jade giggled. “I never hear your accent until you rep New Orleans. You switch back and forth well.”

“We might have been poor, but my mama believed in education and diction and told me to pick and choose when to let my accent flow and when to sound like I’m from anyplace, America.”

“She taught you well. That reminds me, I think you should do a story about your beginnings. It could be on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel or a special feature on ESPN. No one really knows your story, and just listening to you share that small part of your own history moved me.”

Catching my reflection in the mirror, I stared at myself. At the man, I’d become though I’d often still felt like the little nappy-headed boy inside whose only motivation to excel was getting my family out of poverty. A burden that many black and brown children still have that in white households is and always has been the responsibility of the parents. “Let me think on that one.”

“Zeke, this goes toward your legacy. Your story is the American Dream. Despite so many obstacles, you overcame them and succeeded despite the odds. People need to know your story. Children wanting something or someone bigger than them to believe in need your story.”

Memories. Some good. Mostly bad. I ran my hand over my thick hair that I was allowing to grow even fuller on top. “Like I said, Max, let me think on that one.”

Jade quietly replied, “Okay.” She paused. “You want to meet at seven-thirty?”

“Yeah.” My shoulders sloped in the chromed reflection. The present joy shaded by the past pain.

“Hey…we got the Men’s Health cover, and I’m working on something big that I can’t wait to share. You good?”  I could hear the smile in her voice, the intent to lift my spirits.

Twisting my neck and shaking off negative thoughts, I responded with my usual swagger, “Always. Just text where you want to meet. Later.”

“Later.” 

The moment I clicked off with Jade, I dialed his number and prayed he’d already made it to the city. “Hey, I need a favor.”

JC sounded like he was chewing. “What?”

“You at the hotel?”

“Yeah, I’m enjoying all the treats in my minibar.”

I teased. “Why is that always the first thing you do when you arrive at every hotel? Save some for tomorrow. You could stand to lose a few. Just saying.”

JC snickered. “Fuck you. My body is a temple. You wished your body looked like mine.”

Always needing to be the one with the last word, I replied smoothly, “It did when I was in high school.”

He retorted, “Hanging up.”

“Wait…JC, damn. I’m meeting up with my publicist for drinks, and she’s bringing a friend. I need you to keep her friend busy.”

“Publicist? Zeke, don’t stick me with the boring, plain friend.”

“My guess is she’s just as hot as Jade. You luck up; she may be even hotter. Besides, you do it for Ian all the time.”

“Well, lately, I’m trying to slow all that down.”

“Seriously? Shit, you party harder and fuck more women than me. What’s up?”

He replied, slightly irritated, “Nothing, just trying to chill more.”

I pulled the cell from my ear and stared at it for a minute, making sure I called JC and not Javi. Their names were close together on my phone, and it wouldn’t be the first time I’d made that mistake. Nope. I called the right person. “Look, you can still chill. The way I think Jade rolls, I’m sure her friend will be fine with a drink or two, maybe dinner, good conversation with the best shortstop and catcher in the league. These are not thirsty groupies trying to fuck us.”

“What time and how long we’re supposed to do this?”

I walked to my wide window with a panoramic view of DC with the familiar white obelisk monument in the near distance. “Come on, JC, the game not until tomorrow night. And I don’t want to put a clock on this woman. I’ve been trying to get with her, and she’s not hearing it, though I know she’s feeling it. You know me, I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need you.”

He sighed loudly. “Fuck it. I’ll go, but you owe me big.”

“Whatever. Just meet me in the lobby at seven-thirty. I’ll drive.”

 “Where are we going?”

I smirked. “You don’t trust me?”

“Not at all… you like hood bars and clubs.”

“If I recall correctly, you like those ‘hood’ places just like me.”

“I did, and after that last fight defending you a few months ago, I stay my ass out of them now. Where are we going?”

Smiling at the memory of the fight in which I and JC handled three men who were mad that their women kept trying to talk to me and JC, I conceded. “Point. Besides, Jade chose the place.”

“Good because I’m hungry.”

“Dude, you’ve been smacking the entire time on the phone, and you’re still hungry?”

JC smacked his lips louder and said suggestively, “What can I say? I love to eat.”

“You dirty motherfucker. Don’t tell me you’re with a woman right now?”

“Bye, Zeke.”

Laughing at his naughty antics, I tossed my phone on my bed and hurried to shower. I had a dinner date with Jade, and if I played my cards right, I would be having breakfast with her, too.

Just one click and it will be on your kindle the night before it releases to everyone else!
https://www.amazon.com/Other-Side-Game-Diamond-Rattlers-ebook/dp/B091MY92CW

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